19 Jul

Why sterilization didn’t work?

Why sterilization didn’t work in Romania?

Sterilization is the only humane way to limit and eventually decrease the street dog population. International experts and charity representatives have for more than 15 years appealed to the Romanian government to fund a nationwide dog sterilization campaign, in collaboration with experienced local vets from each region of Romania.

Early demonstration projects were sponsored by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation which sadly had, from the very beginning, bad experiences while trying to work with Romanian officials. Later, especially since 2008, more and more voices have implored the officials to prevent a massive slaughter by sterilizing in a sustained manner both owned and homeless dogs.

Instead, left almost completely uncontrolled for the past five years, the street dog population has alarmingly increased. More people have been bitten by dogs increased, and more have complained to the authorities about dangerous dogs.

People who previously ignored the dogs’ presence on the streets have become worried for public health and safety. These concerns have been amplified by the media.

A wrong approach

Between 2001 – 2013 several different charities from Romania and abroad have sponsored chaotic “blitz” sterilization campaigns, “fixing” 100, 500 or 1000 dogs in communities where the dog population at that date was dozen times higher.

Even if the sponsoring organizations return to the blitz areas a year or two later, by then the number of puppies born from the remaining un-fixed population has usually become larger higher than the number of dogs who were sterilized on the first visit.

Instead of providing valuable good examples, these “blitz campaigns” have proved to be a waste of money and time. They generate good publicity for the sponsors, while accomplishing very little for animal wellbeing.

While the blitzes help the dogs who benefiting from the surgeries, they do not solve mathematically the growing number of strays suffering on the streets.

There are good examples of successful sterilization campaigns in regions of India where the number of street animals has been decreased, reducing public worries and complaints, reducing the animals’ suffering, and setting up credible examples for others to follow.

Romania lacks credible examples that sterilization “really works”! Except one.

Only one successful sterilization project

Robert Smith is a British citizen with business in Romania. Being shocked by the strays’ situation, he decided, years ago, to invest his own money to start a sterilization campaign.

Robert Smith’s sterilization project in Oradea was successful for seven years. The dog population decreased visibly. The key to success was continuity. The Oradea sterilization campaign started in the town and than moved concentrically out into first the very close villages, and later to the far ones.

Sadly, this project stopped when there was a change of government in Oradea. The new officials decided to end the collaboration with Robert Smith. The gains of seven years were lost. The number of street dogs is increasing again in Oradea.

Other true aspects

Romanians do not believe in sterilization because there are not solid examples that this solution works efficiently.

But the authorities have been in touch with experts from abroad and know from them that properly managed sterilization campaigns are efficient. So why did they silently wait for a disaster to happen, the dog mauling death of four-year-old Ionut Anghel in Bucharest, in order to change the national animal control law and allow municipal governments to kill street dogs? Why they didn’t prevent this? Why they didn’t they invest in a reliable humane solution?

The answer is complicated. In short: corruption, lack of education, and indifference ––the main causes that afflict all of Romania.

Are the Romanians receptive to sterilize their own pets or their street protégées?

10 years ago only a few Romanians knew what sterilization is.

From this perspective, the situation has improved. Now, we get numerous phone calls from people asking if we can help them to sterilize their cat or the dog they feed outside their small apartment.

Because of lack of education, some people hide their dogs from being sterilized, while others abandon puppies in empty fields, throw them in trash bins or over the shelter’ fencing, etc. Unsterilized dogs constantly give birth to puppies, who soon produce a new generation of street dogs.

We have all heard of the massive corruption in Romania. The lack of official response to stray dog overpopulation in the last 25 years is not accidental. The money to be made catching, impounding, and killing dogs is the number one reason for that. This is why Brigitte Bardot was rejected and humiliated when she put her own money into trying to solving the problem humanely and decently by sterilizing all the strays of Bucharest.

Our way of doing things

ROLDA mission doesn’t focus only on animal wellbeing, though this is our top priority.

We also feel responsible about how to handle each donation.

When our budget allowed, we used to sterilize dogs and return them back in to their territory. We stopped that after noticing that the dogs sterilized by our team were later caught by city dog catchers and incarcerated in their horrible concentration camp.

The dogs were kept from reproducing, thanks to our donors, but were sentenced to life in prison, or a brutal death.

We still help low-income people to sterilize their pets, covering the cost of veterinary surgery. Our sterilization campaign is part of the daily work that we do with passion for the dogs of the Galati region.

Our work consists of rescue, responsibly sheltering, rehabilitation, and rehoming.

We closely work with Dr. Gingarasu in Galati and Dr. Andrei in the Smardan area.

On occasion, we are visited by Dr. Gabi and the FPCC team for several days, during which we do 30-40 sterilizations in a day.

Working exclusively with the steel plant, we indulge ourselves as an exception to return to the steel plant territory a small number of sterilized dogs to avoid overcrowding our limited shelter space. Because the food resources are limited within the steel plant area, we plan to place feeding stations in the areas where dogs are returned.

We restrain ourselves from returning sterilized dogs to dangerous areas, or placing them back on the streets, where they will be taken by the dogcatchers. This risk increased after the November 2013, with the passage of legislation which allows pounds to kill any dog who has been kept for at least 14 days.

It would be a waste of resources and a misuse of our donors’ help to sterilize dogs who are not kept 100% safe, who can be killed by authorities or hit by trucks, poisoned, etc

For the coming months, ROLDA will focus on sterilizing the dogs from the steel plant area, the dogs rescued and placed in our shelter to be transformed into loving pets. When funds permit, it is ROLDA goal to help the low-income people from Galati and nearby villages by covering the sterilization (and microchipping) costs for their pets.